Bedbug Infestation Irks Ashdown House Students

A bedbug problem that has been plaguing Ashdown since last spring is close to being resolved. An exterminator contracted to MIT has been visiting rooms several times a week over the course of the summer, and sticky-trap style bug monitors newly installed in each room show no sign of new activity.

According to Anurag Bajpayee G, president of the Ashdown House Executive Committee, the source of the bedbug problem “has been traced to used furniture,” purchased by residents in two separate suites. When a student reported waking up with bite marks, Housing initiated extermination procedures.

Ashdown is not alone; bedbugs were found in another graduate residence last year. “Bedbugs are a popular college problem,” said Director of Housing Dennis J. Collins, citing a recent case at Emmanuel College, where students are no longer allowed to bring in used furniture where the insects could reside. In the past few years, bedbugs have become an increasing problem across the United States, from a much-publicized outbreak in New York City last year to several outbreaks in the Boston area the previous summer. Collins suggested travel as one cause, adding that the insects hitch rides easily, on anything from cuffs of clothing to old furniture.

Bedbugs are small, flightless insects that come out at night to bite. At full growth they can reach several millimeters in length and are visible to the naked eye. They live in mattresses, sofas, and upholstery. In old buildings such as Ashdown, cracks in the walls, ceilings, and floors make it easy for the insects to establish themselves once introduced.

In Ashdown, the residents of the infested suites were required to have their rooms and clothes cleaned entirely to rid the area of bugs. They were also given new mattresses with covers to prevent the bedbugs from finding a new place to live. The contracted exterminator used “a clear, odorless, safe treatment” to kill the bedbugs, according to an e-mail sent to Ashdown residents from Denise Lanfranchi, Ashdown’s house manager.

According to Bajpayee, exterminating procedures ran in cycles, with the first spraying killing the adults and the second killing their offspring. A problem arose when the original floor was sprayed for bedbugs and the surviving insects ran up to the next. The total number of rooms affected was eight or nine, said Bajpayee. Ashdown has a total of 264 rooms.

To reduce the probabilities of bedbug problems in the future, MIT Housing may consider banning students from bringing used furniture into the dorms, Collins said. Until then, students should “be conscious of who and where they are buying [their used furniture] from.”

“Everybody should be careful,” Bajpayee said.